Young teenagers 'turned into criminals by sex texts': Increasing numbers being arrested with many ending up on sex offenders' register
Police fear that children as young as 13 are sending 'sex texts'Three police forces run counselling groups for children sending messages
Expert says there is an 'increase in indecent images sent by young people'



23:36 GMT, 11 December 2012

Children as young as 13 are viewing naked images on their mobile phones or downloading explicit content, with many being placed on the sex offenders' register (stock image)

Explicit: Children as young as 13 are viewing naked images on their mobile phones or downloading explicit content, with many being placed on the sex offenders' register (stock image)

A generation of young teenagers is at risk of being criminalised as increasing numbers are arrested over online sexual offences, police warned last night.

More are being investigated for swapping naked images of each other on their mobiles and downloading sexual pictures of teenagers, with many put on the sex offenders’ register.

Channel 4 News has found that three police forces have set up counselling groups to help teach offenders that the practice is against the law.

Many teens are confused because although it is legal for two 16-year-olds to have sex, it is illegal for them to swap pictures of each other.

Any images of children under the age of 18 are technically child pornography, meaning they could be arrested – especially if they share the images with classmates without the other person’s consent.

Critics say the increasing sexualisation of children is partly the result of easy access to porn on the internet. As one 15-year-old boy told the Channel 4 News Generation Sex investigation: ‘It’s pretty much insanely easy. There nothing stopping you unless you can’t turn on your computer. There is nothing stopping you from typing in porn.’

The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on web porn to protect children. Over-18s would only be able to access adult material after opting in.

But police are becoming increasingly worried that more boys and girls as young as 13 are sending sex texts to each other – naked photos on their mobile phones.

Corrupting: Children are said to be so sexualised that the practice of 'sexting' has become 'mundane and mainstream' (file picture)

Corrupting: Three police forces are now running counselling groups to help teach young offenders against the illegal practices (file picture)

Another 15-year-old boy told the
programme: ‘It’s very common for boys to ask girls for naked photos.
Boys compare naked photos with each other in school all the time.’

A girl of 15 said: ‘Being asked for sexual images is all pretty normal.’

Now the Surrey, Hertfordshire and
Metropolitan Police forces are working with the Lucy Faithfull
Foundation, a charity that works with adult sex offenders. They have
carried out a 12-month project, working with young people in trouble
with the law. It includes counselling for these teens as well as help
for parents and schools.

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Paul West, formerly head of management
of sex offenders for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said:
‘The police service has seen a significant increase in indecent images
being sent by young people. It’s really through access to new technology
– the internet, mobile phones particularly. If a young person is placed
on the sex offenders’ register, that becomes a huge millstone around
their neck.’

Donald Findlater, of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: ‘Someone needs to take stock of what is going on. That needs to take place and in too many households, it’s not. In too many schools, children are not being helped to work out where sex belongs in relationships. It feels like everything is out of control.’

One 16-year-old, Shaun, was arrested after downloading naked images of underage children and was put on the sex offenders’ register for ten years. He has been suspended from school and will have to tell any employer of his criminal past. He told Channel 4: ‘You don’t think these are images of abuse, you don’t think anything. It is a separate world on the internet.’

For the full story, watch Channel 4 News, Wednesday at 7pm.